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The following story contains spoilers for The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 5.


If last week’s Episode 4 of The Last of Us was something of a set-up, the start of a new story arc, then Episode 5 is certainly the follow-through. It was always going to be tough for the show to directly follow the emotional highs and overall depth that came from Episode 3, “Long Long Time,” so co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann instead allowed the next part of their story to take a slow-burn approach; set something up in one week, and let the fallout happen after.

Episode 5, titled “Endure and Survive,” picks up exactly where Episode 4 leaves off: with guns in the faces of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Well, we get there eventually. The story pulls back a bit, showing us how Kansas City came to be the Kansas City we see when Joel and Ellie arrive; their FEDRA had embraced particularly fascist and abusive policies (there are mentions later in the episode of rape, murder, and torture), and a group, we can presume led by Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) and her brother, overthrew them. This led to much fire, and also soldiers being shot in the head.

We eventually catch up with brothers Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) as they attempt to get away from the mania undetected; eventually, they meet up with the doctor (who we saw Kathleen murder last week), who takes them up to the attic shelter that we saw Kathleen find last week.

Meet Henry and Sam

henry sam the last of us episode 5

HBO

Much of “Endure and Survive” is spent getting to know this set of brothers: Henry, who we find out is on the run from Kathleen and company because he sold her brother out to FEDRA, and Sam, who is adorable, loves superheroes, and is deaf. The two communicate with one another using American Sign Language, which is actually quite helpful in a world where Clickers exist.

As it turns out, though, Sam got sick—and the only way Henry could get the medication he needed was by “collaborating” with FEDRA (the way Joel reacts to this later in the episode lets us believe us when he says it’s “worse” than just about anything else anyone in this world can do). And one of the ways Henry “collaborated” was by turning over Kathleen’s brother—the leader of the Kansas City uprising, someone he calls a “great man,”—to FEDRA, where we can assume he was murdered. We understand why Kathleen is after Henry and Sam, and we understand why Henry needs Joel’s help with one specific thing as soon as they meet: to get them out of there safely.

Much of Henry and Sam’s story foils that of Joel and Ellie. Where Joel did not want Ellie to have a gun (until her having one, without him knowing, wound up saving his life), Henry—as the pair approached a sleeping Joel and Ellie—handed Sam a gun without any semblance of training. The guns were unloaded, but still interesting to see such a completely different approach.

We see throughout the episode as Joel and Henry bond—both the protectors in their respective relationships—just as Ellie and Sam bond over shared interest in a specific sci-fi comic book. As good as it gets, though, we must remember that this is a story about Joel and Ellie; it’s the best way to brace for the inevitable tragedy that awaits in The Last of Us universe.

Kathleen Is Mean

henry sam the last of us episode 5

HBO

We also get our second look at Kathleen, played by Melanie Lynskey with a quite different chilling gravitas from the character she plays in Yellowjackets. In the early parts of the episode, Kathleen is chastising the remaining FEDRA collaborators, telling them, essentially, that they should feel shame, and that she won, and that they’d face trial and do their time (She refers to “betraying neighbors.”). As soon as she leaves, though, her malice is clear: she instructs Perry, her trusty lieutenant (played by Jeffrey Pierce, who voiced Tommy in The Last of Us game) to kill them all and burn the bodies. In case you didn’t pick up, she’s a villain!

Kathleen briefly returns to her childhood home, where we learn the backstory of her childhood with her brother, Michael (who is now dead thanks to FEDRA and Henry’s informing). Michael was the one who could always make things better; when they were kids, his stories of the invincibility of their bedroom always made her feel safe and happy. He was able to bring this energy to everyone. But, Kathleen wonders, where did that get him. She’s much more blunt, and much more violent. She wants revenge on Henry, and revenge on Joel—whom she doesn’t know, but knows someone took out Brian last episode.

She’s a villain, perhaps not one who really knows any other way in life, and the whole fungus zombie apocalypse didn’t exactly help. But this backstory wants us to be certain that she’s someone we should fear, and someone our characters should fear.

Chekhov’s Underground Infected

henry sam the last of us episode 5

HBO

Joel and Henry eventually cook up a plan to escape, and it’s largely successful; until an old man in a tower starts shooting at them with a sniper rifle. Joel goes to check it out, not wanting to kill the man (“Please don’t make me do it”) but being left with no choice when the man quickly turns to fire at him. This also allows Kathleen and company to know our heroes are. Kathleen and the rest of her people arrive, eager to take Joel, Henry, and whomever is with them out.

Except… there’s the whole thing about the infected being forced underground by FEDRA (“The one good thing” they did, according to Henry). Except it wasn’t going to last forever, as we saw them pulsating the ground in Episode 4. They absolutely explode through the ground, setting fires everywhere and making, in general, a moment of absolute mass chaos. It’s a fantastic set piece and a great bit of post-apocalyptic action. Joel gets to take out lots of enemies.

We also see some gnarly deaths. Perry saves Kathleen at one point, only to get his head completely ripped off (gross!) by a “bloater” infected, which kind of just looks like a more demented version of Ben Grimm/The Thing from the Fantastic Four.

Just as Ellie, Sam, Joel, and Henry are about to Escape, Kathleen catches up with them. She looks them square in the eyes, but we see a little infected girl behind her; the girl attacks, and mauls Kathleen to death. Scary, gross stuff. Kind of a detour from our main story, but nonetheless a good bit of world building to prove what Joel has been saying all along: the worse things in this world aren’t the infected, but us.

We Don’t Deserve Nice Things

henry sam the last of us episode 5

HBO

Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam find a motel suite to camp in for the night before heading to Wyoming; the two duos have gotten close and comfortable with each other. We can really tell this because Joel—ice cold Joel, who may just be finally warming up—invites Henry to join them on the road to Wyoming. Henry accepts, casually telling Joel “We’ll get a new start,” but you can tell being super excited to once again be accepted and embraced on the inside. It’s a bit of great work by actor Lamar Johnson.

The problem, however, is next door. As Sam and Ellie’s wonderful friendship continues to blossom, they have a conversation via Sam’s toy writing pad. They talk about real stuff, as Sam says he’s “scared of ending up alone” (<<<NOTE: was this sam or ellie who said this?), and Ellie, much embracing the older sibling role, calms him down. But then Sam drops the bombshell: “If you turn into a monster, is it still you inside?” he questions in writing. He reveals his ankle, which was bitten during the chaos with the infected.

Ellie takes this remarkably calmly. She tells Sam that her blood is medicine, showing him her cut that now appears healed and scarred over. She cuts her hand and rubs her blood on his bite. This probably won’t work. But credit to Ramsey for really making us believe that Ellie was really, really confident it would just…work. She wasn’t scared. She tells Sam she’ll stay up all night with him, but she doesn’t. And when she wakes up, he’s facing the other way—just before she calls his name and he’s growling and feral like every other infected we’ve seen to this point.

Sam chases her into the next room where Henry and Joel are, and he gets on top of her, as Henry pulls his gun.

This is snap judgment time; just before Sam bites, Henry shoots him. A beat passes, and as Henry sees Sam’s blood begin to pool. He acted on instinct, but cannot believe what he’s just done to (what was left of) his brother. It becomes very clear what’s about to happen, and despite Joel and Ellie both yelling not to do it, Henry shoots himself in the head.

As soon as Henry agreed to join Joel and Ellie on the road to Wyoming, we should have seen this coming. This is an adventure story. This is a road story. This is a post-apocalyptic story. But what this is not is an adventure, road, or post-apocalyptic story where our lead characters make friends along the way and have a more-the-merrier jolly journey out west. This is a grim, bleak world, telling a grim, bleak story. And as much as Joel, Ellie, Henry, Sam, and we the viewers at home all may have wanted this to work out, it just was not going to happen. And having seen the world this story exists in, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

As the episode closes out, Joel and Ellie, just the two of them, are getting ready to hit the road again. But first, a tribute needs to be made for Henry and Sam, who were by all means good people who got stuck in a horrible, horrible situation. Joel digs their graves; Ellie leaves a note for Sam on his pad just atop the dirt.

“I’m sorry,” it reads, and they hit the road.

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Headshot of Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.

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